Friday, February 25, 2011

best protest EVER

Greetings from the Fighting 17th! I am in Madison, Wisconsin working with other SEIU employees and locals and different unions to fight against Governor Walker's plan to do away with collective bargaining. If you haven't been following this, you can read this article explaining the situation, or this one that discusses how even other conservatives don't want to support Walker, or listen to the first 10 minutes of a phone conversation that he thought he was having with an uber-conservative, mega-contributor, about his plans to crush the unions (spoiler alert: he wasn't).

I got in Wednesday evening and went straight to phone banking to get supporters to attend a rally on Thursday. Afterward, one of the other SEIU people and I were walking to his car so he could drop me off at my hotel, and he told me that he was probably going to sleep at the capitol building that night. I asked if he knew that hotels were being paid for, but he said, "Yeah, and I go there in the mornings and that's where my stuff is, but I've mostly been sleeping at the capitol."

Turns out that union members and supporters have occupied the capitol building. He (Ben, btw) took me there, and as we walked up to the building we could see the Senators through one of the windows, in professional-looking outfits, walking around an ornate room...but then we started to hear the drums.

There's a frigging drum circle going almost 24 hours per day in the middle of the capitol building. It's maybe the coolest thing I've ever seen. I took these pictures on my iPhone, and they're not that good. But you'll survive. I think.

The crowd in the center of the rotunda. You can kiiiind of see the drum circle.

Looking up at the balcony from the 1st floor rotunda.
Standing on the balcony above the rotunda.

2nd floor signs.

Drum circle! They're so good. And so loud. And so so so good!! I love drum circles.
The senators are in session while all this is going on outside their locked room. Apparently all these protesters showed up and just set up camp in the building...and no one's thrown them out. The police are on the protesters' side, so they monitor but don't jettison, and apparently the senators considered calling the National Guard in, but didn't want to go through the trouble and also knew they'd just look like jerks in the end. So we stay! Tonight is actually the official SEIU sleepover night. I don't have a sleeping bag here, so hopefully the hotel doesn't mind if I take all the pillows and blankets from my room for a while...

Yesterday I went with longtime political organizer Ryan to Richland Center, which is a small town about an hour west of Madison, and is where I'm going to be focusing my efforts while I'm here. A republican senator (Dale Schultz) lives in the town, so the residents have been trying to get his attention. He's historically sided with unions, so we're trying to make sure that he follows through on this one. We made signs, headed west, and met up with some teachers and students and union supporters to picket outside of M&I Bank (a company that was bailed out via 1.7billion taxpayer dollars, but then contributed over $100k to Governor Walker's campaign, and is anticipated to leave Wisconsin soon, so they're going to take away jobs, too. Super awesome!).

The things these teachers have been dealing with is just ridiculous. One woman has been going to the senator's house every morning for an hour before work, with her picketing sign, and peacefully protesting. For over a week or so now. And the senator's neighbors have been berating her every day. And telling her that she's disturbing the peace and she should be arrested. Another teacher posted something to her facebook wall (at night, after doing her hours of on-top-of-the-school-day duties), and a parent responded that she should get back to work and earn the salary he's paying. Most of the people who passed by waved or were friendly. There were only a couple who shook their heads at us or tried to argue (with the Teamster who was there. Word of caution: if you're opposed to unions, don't try to argue with a Teamster. You'll lose.).

Tonight I'm going back out to Richland Center with a woman I just met today, who works for the teachers' union. We're going to brainstorm with the locals to come up with ways to raise awareness and get more outspoken supporters in the community. Also there will be chips and salsa. No big deal or anything. Just my most favoritest meal on the planet.

Saturday we're organizing buses to bring supporters from other towns in the 17th District to converge on Madison. If they think the capitol building is a madhouse now? Just wait. I. am. so. pumped.


Leah said...

On my list of top 10 things christine would do in her life, this is like #3...Just below eating chips and salsa and riding roller coasters. I know you are living it up!

Anonymous said...

this is so awesome! thanks for keeping us updated. Please send out mass e-mails with photos just in case someone wants to reply to all